According to 89-year-old radio evangelist Harold Camping, you’ve got only three days left until the apocalypse. Of course, he also said the world would end in 1994 – and was wrong – but this time, he’s confident that the math is correct that the Judgement Day will be this May 21st, 2011.
According to Camping, some 200 million Christians will be spared on the 21st, and the rest of the world will face chaos and destruction for the next 5 months, until October 21st. At that point, the world will “end”. Poof!
The Mathematics Behind May 21st, 2011
Camping bases his math on a several assumptions. He believes Christ was crucified on April 1, 33 A.D., exactly 722,500 days before May 21, 2011. That number, 722,500, is the square of 5 x 10 x 17. In Camping’s numerological system, 5 represents atonement, 10 represents completeness, and seventeen represents heaven.
On his radio talk show, Family Radio, Camping states, “Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story. It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved. I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that.”
Camping’s remarkable discovery relies on (at least) the following assumptions:
Assumption 1: Christ and God exist, and thus Christ’s death has significance.
Assumption 2: Christ died on April 1st, 33 A.D..
Assumption 3: 200 million Christians will be saved – even though there are 1.2 billion on the planet.
Assumption 4: Camping’s numerogical system has significance. That is, the numbers 5, 10, and 17 actually have the meaning atonement, completeness, and heaven. And, when combined, they mean “judgement day” or “the rapture”
Assumption 5: That God would take the square of 722,500 to be significant. Incidentally, 5*10*17 = 850. And 850*850= 722,500
Assumption 6: There’s only one true religion – his – and that’s why everyone else will be destroyed.
The really crazy thing? Over the past few months, Camping’s prophecy has gained traction with hardcore Christian fundamentalists. Signs, billboards, and volunteer evangelists around the country are getting the word out. Here’s what one of the billboards looks like:
What do you think the billboards will say on May 22nd?
Why Are We So Fascinated With Doomsday and the Apocalypse?
Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, says some people have an “apocalyptic worldview.”
“The first is that there is something dreadfully wrong with the world of human existence today,” he says. “On the other hand, there is a sense that there is a higher good or some purpose for existence, a hope for a better future.”
Viewing the world as a flawed place headed toward some sort of cosmic correction reconciles these two beliefs.
And since believers are certain that their sacred text can never be wrong, failed doomsday predictions only convince them that their own interpretations were flawed, opening the door to new predictions. And the cycle continues – failed prediction after failed prediction.
It’s The End of The World As We Know It (and I feel fine)
Every few years, there’s a hot and sexy new doomsday prophecy that catches the media’s attention. A so-called prophet, maybe with a direct line to God, will spell out (with great certainty) the end of the world. Or maybe someone will read between the lines of an ancient text and decipher a cryptic message signifying the apocalypse. Or someone will look at some old scrolls and say “See? That’s what [insert false prophet's name here] meant when [insert nasty event here] happened.“, which is a great example of finding patterns in data after-the-fact.
A Brief History Of Doomsday
LiveScience has put together an infographic that lays out the history of doomsday, the apocalypse, and general end-times scenarios. Check it out below, and then enjoy your weekend – both the 21st and the 22nd, because it’ll be business-as-usual here on planet Earth.
Update: May 23rd (spoiler alert: there was no Judgement Day)
Harold Camping was wrong – the world did not end. Camping spoke on his Open Forum radio show to discuss the failed prediction.
One of the questions, from a reporter (source, Huffington Post):
Most questions seem to be from reporters instead of calls from listeners, which is the usual way that the Open Forum radio program on Family Radio runs.
“If we found that we make a mistake, immediately we will correct that, of course,” says Camping, but he says he was not incorrect his in math, just his interpretation about how May 21 would play out. He calls the day “an invisible Judgment.”
Now, look back towards the end of this article, before the infographic, you’ll find:
“And since believers are certain that their sacred text can never be wrong, failed doomsday predictions only convince them that their own interpretations were flawed, opening the door to new predictions. And the cycle continues – failed prediction after failed prediction.”
Camping concedes that May 21st was a “spiritual judgement”, not physical, and that instead of a five month build up, the world will end quickly on October 21st. He goes on to say that the math was correct, but that the Bible, as currently written, is corrupt, and that humans can’t understand it anyways. Excuses.
Check back on October 21st…